Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bear Down

This photograph has a great deal of significance for me as it should for anyone who calls him/herself a fan of a particular professional football team that's going through some tough times right now. The photograph was made in a rough patch of South Chicago that has been called "The Bush" for as long as anyone can remember.

Tucked between the moribund US Steel South Works plant and the landmark St. Michael Roman Catholic Church, there was a bodega called Ringo's. That day, Super Bowl Sunday, January 26th, 1986 to be exact, while taking pictures of the neighborhood for a photographic project that would become the "Changing Chicago Project", I came across this cast of characters. The gentleman on the right stopped me and asked if I would take a picture of him and his friends who were there to watch the big game that would kickoff in a few hours. As he walked into Ringo's, I set up my 4x5 camera on a tripod in front of the shop. Moments later, he came out with three of his friends, including Ringo himself on the far left. Walking by as I made the first picture was a fifth man, the gentleman in the center whose name escapes me. His friends in the doorway called out to him from across the street to join them. Needless to say, his presence made the picture.

Sometimes photographs, like this one, just make themselves; in the words of Josef Koudelka, they are "masterpieces made by accident". This particular accident happens to be in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Nearly thirty years later, South Works and Ringo's place are long gone. The whereabouts of Ringo and his friends are unknown. The team they and I were rooting for that day won the game, defeating the New England Patriots 46-10.

Things change.

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